Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
In this Gospel reading we find that Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the mountain to pray.
They needed a mountaintop experience. They needed to see Jesus in all of his glory and to hear God announce, once again, that Jesus is His Son, His anointed one, and the one to listen to. And they needed to see Moses and Elijah, to “connect the dots” to their heritage of faith, the People of God.
And they got all that on the mountain: Revelation of Christ in His glory, connecting Him with the Law and the Prophets of Old, and hearing God the Father mark Jesus as the One Messiah.
What an amazing time. No wonder Peter wanted to set up camp and just stay there. Who would want to leave? Who would want to go back to life as usual? John later wrote, “We have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
So what if Peter had gone ahead and set up camp, hoping for another glorious moment with Christ and God, with a new glimpse of Moses and Elijah?
Peter would have missed out on the rest of Jesus’s ministry, would not have seen the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and would not have been there on the day of Pentecost. Sadly, he would not have stood up that day, and many times after, to proclaim Jesus as Messiah.
But Jesus had important work for Peter to do, down the mountain work. He was preparing Peter through this mountaintop experience to be a witness of his glory, to share what he had seen, and to take this experience with him as he preached the Gospel and led God’s people.
God took them up the mountain to reveal his glory, to empower them and prepare them for the work he had called them to do. And then he sent them back down.
In our life with Christ, He reveals himself to us in mountaintop experiences. Some of these are dramatic, and some are mundane. But we all have them.
And sometimes we spend the rest of our lives trying to re-create those moments or trying to force others to re-live them with us. We get stuck on the mountain in a tent, missing out on what’s going on down below.
And there are so many needs down below the mountain top. As we consider the human lives around us, we see so many who don’t know what unconditional love feels like. So many who are struggling to pay the bills and aren’t sure if they can afford to keep their unborn child. So many who are facing a terminal illness or dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts. Life is precious, and you and I are called to take the glory of the light of our beautiful Christ to all who walk in darkness.
God has important work for you to do, down the mountain work. He was preparing you through these mountaintop experiences to be a witness of his glory, to share what you have seen, and to take this experience with you as you share the Gospel. Get involved. Take what you’ve experienced and share it. Come down from the mountain.
Heavenly Father, as we descend from the mountain, may our eyes remain focused upward on You. May Your Will direct our steps and our hearts. Use us to feed the hungry and bring comfort to the broken. We ask these things in Your Name, Amen.
This week’s lectionary teaching is written by an anonymous Anglican.